Millions to die of AIDS in PNG

Fifty per cent of all patients in medical and tuberculosis wards in Port Moresby are admitted due to AIDS, the Papua New Guinea National Catholic AIDS Office says, as fears grow that the disease could kill millions in Australia's northern neighbour.

The alarming statistics from the AIDS Office and elsewhere were cited by a Fiijan business newspaper, Islands Business, in a strongly worded column pleading for Pacific leaders "to get off their butts and grab HIV/AIDS by the horn".

Quoting a report last month by the Australian Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), the paper says that Papua New Guinea's health efforts were proof of the Pacific region's lethargic treatment of the imminent HIV crisis.

With HIV prevalence in PNG now estimated between 1.8 per cent to even 3 per cent of the population, the country's leaders still have their heads buried in the sand, the Fijian report says.

"Nowhere in the world has a country made serious headway in stopping or slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS without a serious and resolute commitment by those in power," said the thinktank's research fellow, Miranda Darling Tobias, in the recent CIS report.

"There have been too many tragic precedents for Papua New Guinea to ignore their own HIV/AIDS epidemic."

In a further warning, the paper says that "the worry for health workers in the Pacific is that the lessons of PNG seemed to have been lost on its closest neighbours to the east, Fiji, especially."

Head of the UNAIDS Pacific office based in Suva, Stuart Watson, told the paper that HIV infection statistics are showing that Fiji is currently where PNG was a decade ago.

The AIDS Office in PNG is being jointly funded by Caritas Australia. The Catholic Church is the largest health care provider in the former Australian colony.

Photo: Sr Tarcisia Hunhoff, coordinator of the Papua New Guinea National Catholic AIDS at a Caritas press conference, November 2004

Millions to die of AIDS in PNG (Islands Business, 11/3/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia welcomes effort to combat AIDS in PNG
AIDS in Papua New Guinea 2004
Miranda Darling Tobias, The HIV/AIDS Crisis in Papua New Guinea (Centre for Independent Studies, 8/2/07) – PDF



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